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Adjusting Your School’s Advancement in the Age of COVID-19

Holman Gao | 5 min read

Over the last few weeks, there’s no doubt what’s been top of mind - COVID-19, also known as Coronavirus Disease 2019. A virus that seemed far away in China just a few months ago is now creating chaos across America. Major conferences have been canceled, fear of economic uncertainty has crept in, and the travel industry has been hit hard.

Given that Italy locked down its entire country this week, it’s clear that COVID-19 will be around for the near future and it’s worth rallying your team to plan for the virus in your advancement strategy.

First and foremost, stay educated on best practices

In uncertain times like these, it’s best to stay calm and up-to-date on recommendations from experts in the field. This means following the CDC at the national level and the health officials in your local government since they will have the best insight on what’s going on locally in your community.

Image: Follow recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)Follow recommendations from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

Remember that since COVID-19 is new, learnings about how to deal with the virus can change week-to-week, so you should continue to keep tabs with the latest recommendations.

Rethink events happening before the end of the school year

At this juncture, it’s possible that any in-person event - such as a reunion, gala, or even graduation - may have to be canceled or rescheduled this year. Remember that like you, your constituents are scrambling to figure out how to deal with the virus, so it’s important that you communicate to them that their health is your number one concern.

Given how difficult it is to plan with so many unknowns, now is the time to start thinking about contingency plans if you haven’t started already. There may be ways for your team to come up with creative ways to circumvent disruptions to your fundraising efforts while ensuring that your constituents stay safe.

For example, if you have an upcoming reunion, you can send reunion swag or a care package through the mail with a save-the-date card for the rescheduled date. For larger events such as dinners and galas, you could look into shifting the event to a virtual auction where winners are presented in a live video stream.

Leverage online tools in place of in-person interactions

If you choose to continue with an event such as a Giving Day, look into modern technology to minimize the need for in-person interactions. Use a fundraising and engagement tool like BoostMySchool that keeps donors engaged throughout the Giving Day, through live supporter comments and a real-time social media feed.

Image: Social media feed from Fort Worth Country Day's Founders DaySocial media feed from Fort Worth Country Day's Founders Day

Consider replacing anything you would do on campus with Facebook Live, to encourage your donors to tune into the virtual event. As an example, you could ask students to create live streams throughout the Giving Day. To tie in the video into the school’s branding, a staff member could sing the school’s fight song on Facebook if you hit the goal for an hourly challenge.

One last thing to be aware of is that some of your donors may feel reluctant to give because they’ve financially been affected by COVID-19. Even more so than usual, communicate to your donors that participation is the most important thing and let them contribute in ways other than giving, such as through sharing a video or message on Instagram. In addition, allow your donors to make pledges or to spread their gift across a few months if it helps ease the burden of a gift now.

Don’t forget about your own and your team’s health

In the midst of scrambling to figure out what to do, it’s easy to forget to take care of yourself and your team. If companies in your area are starting to work from home due to COVID-19, then you should consider doing so as well! Since BoostMySchool is a fully remote company, we’re happy to share tips on how we use modern communication tools to stay synchronized and productive.

Image: Slack and Zoom, a few communication tools we loveSlack and Zoom, a few communication tools we love

The most-used tool in our virtual office is the Slack chat system. It allows the team to have quick conversations in real-time instead of over email, and there’s an opportunity to sprinkle a bit of fun by embedding GIFs. We also hop on video calls every day through Google Hangouts or Zoom to make sure we get face-to-face interaction. All of these tools offer free options so there’s no excuse to try them out for a day to see which one is your team’s favorite.

If you feel sluggish when you work at home, then do your best to mimic your office environment! Add pictures of your family and plants to wherever you’re working. Use walking breaks to chat with your coworkers on the phone. Even if it’s only a temporary space, it’s worth investing in and will allow you to set boundaries between work and home life.

Like during any period of uncertainty, it’s best to take a step back to remain calm, to educate yourself on what’s happening, and remember the things that are most important. In the case of COVID-19, nothing should come at the cost of the safety and health of you, your team, and your school community. Keeping that in mind will help you figure out how best to cope with the virus and get you through this period of uncertainty.

Further COVID-19 Resources

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Written By

Holman Gao

Holman is the founder and CEO of Boost My School. He actively helps his former high school with their fundraising and alumni outreach, which is how the idea for Boost My School came about. He is a strong believer in the power of education to change the world and volunteers with programs that support underrepresented students in math and science.